By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — Black ink was smudged on their hands, chins and cheeks, but the fourth-graders were too engrossed in their projects to care.
They were busy perfecting their calligraphic lettering, using special pens and paper to create medieval-style, illuminated manuscripts that will be proudly displayed in the halls of their school.
"I think it’s really interesting and fun," Sorensen Magnet School fourth-grader Rain Moyer said Tuesday. "They said this is what they did before they could type books, so I think that’s really cool. It’s like we’re making like a poem that’s from medieval times."
The students chose one of two quotes to trace onto their manuscript pages: "Books may be the only true magic" or "A book is a dream you hold in your hand."
“It’s not easy," said Sam Mandel, showing off his work. "It is hard, just getting it at the right angle to do the correct letters."
Students are learning this ancient craft under the guidance of artist-in-residence Hannah Charlton, a Washington artist with a great appreciation for medieval art.
"It’s a huge part of our history," she said. "I think it’s an important thing to learn and they get to experience this history."
Charlton said she wants the students to understand "how much work goes into books, how much effort it was to get the materials ready, how much effort it was to do all the writing, and the painting and everything else."
"Obviously, we don't need it anymore, but it's still a really beautiful thing," she said.
This archaic style was brand new to many of the students, who were excited to share their thoughts about it.
Fourth-grader Brolan Scott called this ornate manuscript-making "a true art."
"If people still used it, this world would be happier," he said. "I think that's because since it’s different from what we do (normally), but it’s still kind of like English. It gives it more pizzazz. It gives more art to it. It gives it more beautifulness. It gives it life."
Charlie Dircksen said he enjoyed learning about calligraphy last year when he was introduced to cursive, so this project is just expanding on something he already found interesting.
"I learned that this is from like Greek times," he said. "There’s always another thing to learn about this stuff."
The students will be completing their projects today, putting on the finishing touches with paint and gold detail.
Fourth-grade teachers Elaine Moreen and Shanna Marshall chose this program for their students for a number of reasons.
"It was something that was unique," Moreen said. "Being an arts school, we really are always looking for an opportunity to integrate the arts with literature."
She said learning how to navigate calligraphy helps refine motor skills and it familiarizes students with the styles used in historic documents, such as the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
"They'll look at books and they'll see them differently," she said.